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Iraq cleric Moqtada Sadr urges Assad to step down

NAJAF: Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr on Saturday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, also calling on Washington and Moscow to stop intervening in the conflict.

The young Najaf-based Shiite cleric condemned the killing of 87 people, including 31 children, in a suspected chemical attack last week in a rebel-held Syrian town that has been widely blamed on Damascus.

“I would consider it fair for President Bashar al-Assad to resign and leave power, allowing the dear people of Syria to avoid the scourge of war and terrorist oppression,” he said in a statement.

Sadr, who led a militia that fought the US occupation of Iraq, also condemned the American missile strike, urging all foreign parties involved in the Syria conflict to pull out.

“I call on all sides to withdraw their military assets from Syria so that the Syrian people take things into their own hands. They are the only ones with the right to decide their fate — the alternative will turn Syria to rubble,” he said.

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